Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When the Severe Pain Ebbs

Sunday School. Just down from my husband and me sits another couple that I see every week, yet haven’t had an opportunity to get to know. A “hello”, a nod, a smile. 
Their son is a friend of my daughter’s in youth group. She isn’t in Sunday school with him today, she stayed the night with a friend and is visiting another church. 
Sunday School is over, we all file into the sanctuary and worship together. Our family, this other family. Many families. Many that I know. Many more that I do not. 
Fast forward about 30 hours to Monday night.
Last night.
We all file into the sanctuary to worship together. Again. Our family. This other family. Many families. Suddenly we are all family.
But, the family from Sunday School is minus One. The one in youth group with my daughter.
So many tears. So many broken hearts. So many questions. So much pain. 
Yet...So much rejoicing. So much faith. And hope. So much victory in the midst of loss. Prayers unite. Strength surrounding, scripture declaring, songs lifting our eyes from ourselves and our anguish to Christ who has vanquished. 
Even so, I cannot keep my mind in the moment. My storytelling brain takes over. The writer in me goes into third person and I find myself observing glimpses of the future that will bring back the pain, fresh and ferocious. 
I do not know these parents. But, I am a parent. I am a mother. I know the heart of a mother. 
The agony that sears and tears with intensity right now will mellow. Who could survive such heartache if it did not? God has sent the Comforter. This mother, this father, and sister...they will be comforted. They will come to a place of acceptance and a place of motion, where the world goes on and they move forward with it once again. 
A place where the severe pain has ebbed. Replaced by the sweet ache of missing someone you love beyond measure.
But I see the unexpected stabs of pain that loom in the near and distant future. Hiding behind the little things that will catch this mother, and the others, by surprise. Little things that will feel like big things, making them catch their breath. The questions, the “what ifs”, the “remember whens”. These thoughts, these pictures, these stories are what choke me with tears, what makes me pray for this family more. 
A long vigil over time seems like a good idea. Remembering to pray for this family is a marathon and not a sprint. To pray that Christ would carry, would comfort, would heal even as each memory wields a clever strategy to bring heartache. Opportunities for bitterness and anger will spark, hoping to find purchase, hoping to steal joy. We must--- I must--ask God to keep bringing this family to my thoughts so I can bring them to Him in prayer.
I think we all kind of hope, maybe even expect, that a real-life crisis will occur like it does in the movies. Foreshadowing takes place in scripts. Not in life. It would be so handy to have a string of events to look back on and see how it was all leading up to this...as if the person knew it was going to happen.
I bet this young man left his room a little messy. He plopped some books on his half-made bed, left his shoes laying around, needed to empty the trash. His room seems to be expecting him back at any moment.
There is school work left incomplete. What was he going to write about for his assignment in Literature? Was he finally getting the hang of quadratic equations? And, oh, look at that lousy handwriting! No wonder he wanted to do everything on the computer...
His basketball schedule is still on the calendar. He was looking forward to the tournament at the end of the year. His favorite movie was going to be released next week; he and some friends already planned their weekend around it. 
Mail will come addressed to him. So presumptuous.  
Do the couch cushions hold some treasure from his pockets to be unearthed at a later date? A crumbled up scrap of paper that he scribbled on or folded around a wad of gum.  Like a time capsule. That will be a precious find! Precious but painful.
Notes in his Bible. Notes on his desk. Reminders to himself become reminders of him.
A glimpse in a crowd, when-- for the moment-- it will seem natural that he is there. A case of mistaken identity that leaves the family member yearning...
These stories play in my mind when I contemplate their loss. Each of my children become this young man. Though I cannot imagine their depth of pain...in some small way I can. We all can.
I wish I could make it all better. Wish I could make that pain go away. Wish I could bring back their young man. Wish I could at least arrange a proper “good-bye”.
Yet, I remind myself of the promises of God. I embrace His sovereignty. I believe he is gracious and loving and good all of the time. And so does this family. It is very evident in their life. 
It is right to encourage them with scripture and hugs and tears and prayers. I believe all of that will help to heal. It must be done. It is being done. 
I just know the unexpected moments and memories are destined to come and I wanted to tell them that it is ok. Those times will be like a brief, sweet connection that can be savored. Like a quick visit. 
It will hurt. It may make them wonder if it will ever hurt less. I don’t know for sure. I just felt like I had to put into words what many of us already have had floating through our minds. We chastise those kind of thoughts. Won’t allow ourselves to “go there”. Such pondering doesn’t seem very spiritual. 
But it is very human. 
Sometimes these bodies of flesh and emotion demand attention. Demand to be recognized. Must be allowed an outlet. Not an excuse to sin. Not a reason to be bitter. Just permission to feel and to hurt and to swell up and gush over in tears. We are wired to find relief in releasing our emotions. Jesus allowed himself to deeply love and openly hurt. Jesus wept.
It must be ok. 
It is ok.
I pray God will remind us all to keep carrying the burdens of those that mourn as life resumes and the severe pain ebbs.

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.